Internet of Clean Energy
How can the rise in energy demand be reconciled with the needs to reduce CO2 emissions? 2-minute vision
The Internet of Energy (IoE for short) is the implementation of Internet of Things (IoT) technology into distributed energy systems to optimise the efficiency of energy infrastructure and reduce wastage2.
An Internet of Clean Energy would be based on clean energy sources and solve two main problems:
• Wastage – e.g. in 2016 China wasted enough to power Beijing for a year
• Power – intermittent power supply caused by changes in weather or light levels
Clean energy sources(3)
Scotland, for example, is becoming an entirely clean electricity economy, with wind providing nearly 70% of the source energy5. Brazil, on the other hand, is almost entirely powered by Hydro Electricity6, whilst France’s electrical energy comes mainly from nuclear7.
Production of clean energy will necessarily fluctuate around the world. An Internet of Clean Energy would allow clean energy exchanges across borders.
- Compute and control
- Clean energy sources
- Smart home appliances
- Smart meters
Addressing intermittent power supply
As the earth turns, light falls on different parts of the planet at different times affecting solar energy sources. Also, wind moves around the planet in different directions and at different velocities affecting wind energy sources, and rainfall can vary which can affect hydro sources. There are three possibilities for overcoming these fluctuations:
- Provide a base-load to the system from a constant source such as nuclear
- Mass storage – batteries or water reservoirs
- Long distance cables to connect different sources across very large grids
China plans “supergrids” that operate across continents using the world’s first 1.1-million volt cable to transmit power 3000 Km8.
The Australian government is exploring how to export solar power using hydrogen9
Hydrogen fuel cells can convert hydrogen back into electricity, or hydrogen can be burned instead of natural gas.
Electrical grids are interconnected network for delivering electricity from producers to consumers. Grids consist of generating stations that produce electrical power; high voltage transmission lines; transformers and substations; and distribution lines that connect individual customers. As power generation disaggregates and more renewable sources – big and small – come on stream, grids are getting increasingly sophisticated.
Power outages resulting from extreme weather events in the USA have driven a growth in ‘microgrids’. These work independently or as part of bigger power grids, and often have clean energy sources.
Smart grids are electricity networks that use digital communications technology to detect and react to local changes in usage. In short, the digital technology that allows for two-way communication between the utility and its customers, and the sensing along the transmission lines is what makes the grid smart.
Like the Internet, the Smart Grid will consist of controls, computers, automation, and new technologies and equipment working together, but in this case, these technologies will work with the electrical grid to respond digitally to our quickly changing electric demand.
Smart grid appliances and meters
Greater digitalization is also expanding the deployment of advanced metering infrastructure. Over 60 million smart meters now measure the consumption of more than 40% of the buildings in the US. Smart meter deployments in the European Union are expected to reach 72% of consumers there by 2020, while China alone had deployed roughly 350 million smart meters as of 2016.
Traditionally electricity distribution has been one way – utility to grid to customer
Now, small-scale generation technology allows customers to contribute electricity back to the grid, so smart meters will need to track both electricity used and contributed back by a customer.
Sensors and metering technologies are providing new visibility into power system conditions, and digitally-enabled power electronics and infrastructure are providing grid operators with an ability to act on newly-available information. Digitally-enabled demand-side resources, such as heating, and air conditioning units and water heaters could potentially be co-ordinated through a smart grid.
For example, at a time of peak demand, an energy firm’s computer could contact your smart freezer to ask if power can be switched off for a few minutes to allow your neighbour to use some of the energy to cook dinner. Your well-insulated freezer will stay cold without electricity for a while, so it will agree to power down, and you receive a credit.
Entire buildings can be integrated into the smart grid. Grid-integrated buildings have a holistically optimized blend of energy efficiency, energy storage, distributed energy generation, and load flexible technologies/smart controls. This results in a lower, “flatter,” more flexible energy load profile10.
Compute and control
The computing and control requirements for an Internet of Clean Energy are going to be enormous. In the US, for example, 50m smart meters bill could generate 1 bn data points a day with roughly 1 reading per hour.
On a global basis, a reasonable proxy for the number of households that may eventually use smart meters is the number of households with TVs11= 1.78bn. Add to that, 25m commercial buildings.
When cars go entirely electric, you can add to that 1bn cars12. Add to that billions of smart devices, and a global Internet of Clean Energy could become comparable to the current scale of the Internet itself13.
Grid of Smart Grids
An Internet of Clean Energy could comprise connected smart grids ranging from micro to macro scale, from towns to areas to regions to countries, and continents.
• Political co-operation between countries
• Energy security14
• Cyber security
• Methods of energy management
• Tagging clean vs dirty energy
• Dirty-clean – eg flooding rainforest for hydro projects
• Climate scepticism
In the United Kingdom, UK Power Networks has developed a program to actively manage the output of wind power plants, enabling it to more quickly and economically interconnect generators and demand.
Programmers from CSE and the University of Bristol set out to develop a new computational system that would allow the extraction of commercially valuable patterns from smart meter data. They came up with a prototype ‘Big Data’ platform called ‘Smart Meter Analytics, Scaled by Hadoop’ (SMASH) – https://www.cse.org.uk/projects/view/1210
H21 is an engineering solution for converting the gas networks across the North of England to hydrogen:
• Conversion of 3.7 million meter points
• A 12.5GW hydrogen production facility
• 8TWh hydrogen storage
• Carbon capture of up to 20 million tonnes of CO2/year by 2035.
Try this at home
Controlling electrical components with computers is a key part of the Internet of Clean Energy
Use this online simulation to take data from a light sensor to switch a light bulb
Try using different values in the code to get light to turn on and off at different thresholds.
5 Scottish Government – Energy Statistics Summary